The Other Three Stooges

Myself, John Lucasey & Rob Bonstin (circa when Rob and I could still grow hair)

I met these two handsome fellas when I was 13 or 14 years old. That guy on the right, Rob Bonstin, has pipes to rival Ronnie James Dio and when I was in 8th grade and first encountered him he was a junior in high school, and by my then estimation, the coolest dude in our town. I mean, shit, he had perfect rock guy hair, looked badass in aviator glasses and had the ballz to wear a blue satin jacket.

John lived across the street from Rob, and immediately caught my attention because he completely did not give a single fuck. And, in my rapidly germinating adolescent rock star dreams John held the holy goddamned grail – he not only owned a vintage Fender bass guitar, he knew how to play it and thought it was a superior instrument to my measly six-string nonsense.

The discovery that these two amazing people actually lived in my neighborhood utterly changed my life.

See, they made a cartoon about Rob and I back in the 1950s:

That would be me, Chester, to Rob’s Spike.

Except in our version I dressed in the red sweater and bowler hat… and amazingly enough, he didn’t throw me through a window. I wanted desperately to be a third as cool as Rob was, but I didn’t have a clue how he came by any of that coolness, so I just copied everything he did. Rob got his ear pierced, so I got my ear pierced. Rob dyed a blonde streak in his hair, so I dyed a blonde streak in my hair.

It’s not exaggerating to say that if Rob had come to school wearing a Loyal Order of Water Buffalos hat I’d have run out and bought one the next day.

I think, no, I know that any other teenage boy faced with a pest like me, striving to be his mini-me, would have tolerated it for about a minute, then said or done something devastating and humiliating to the doppelgänger. Not Rob. Not a bit. He seemed to always take it as flattering and as if he appreciated the honor of having someone around who thought so highly of him. I learned a ton from that experience, and when I found myself, a few years later, recognizing that I had my own mini-me, did my best to follow the lesson of kindness Rob had taught me.

That photo above was taken several years ago at a holiday party hosted by mutual friends. Rob, John and I lost touch not long after high school and followed the kinds of paths young men follow when we’re trying to find out places in the world. We’d run into each other every now and then, and I loved those random encounters, but none more than one night while I was sitting in a Japanese restaurant, across the table from my soon-to-be ex-wife. That marriage was through and I was miserable. She was being harsh and I was feeling like I didn’t much feel like breathing much anymore. Suddenly, I see Rob and John walk in and I was rescued.

It didn’t matter who I’d come to the restaurant with anymore. A few minutes talking to these two and I realized a little bit of how I’d gone off the rails with my life up to that point. Through that chance meeting I not only reconnected with two of my favorite people, but with the rest of our tribe of misfit toys from high school. I’d refound my people. My tribe.

The reason for this big old preamble is that yesterday Rob lost his partner, Cindy Lopez. She had a previously unknown heart problem that claimed her life suddenly. I heard about it from John and another old friend, Craig, yesterday morning and I’ve spent the past couple of days trying to process this.

I didn’t know Cindy well, but she was aces in my book for one simple reason – she took care of Rob, heart and soul. You see, I don’t need to know you to accept and love you if you treat my friends right. Cindy made Rob smile, and made him feel safe and loved. And I love that guy, so I loved her.

You will be sorely missed, Cindy.

And Rob, no one deserves what you’re dealing with, but if I had to make a list of people least deserving of this bullshit, you’d be right up near the top. I do love you, man. Even if that makes John all queasy-like. 😉

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